The Dilla Feel, Part IV: The Application (“Philodendron & Pothos” Lo-fi Hip-hop Beat)

This post is part of a 4-part series on the rhythmic style of J Dilla.
Part I: (History) · Part II (Theory) · Part III (Grooves) · Part IV (Application)

So far I’ve been discussing some of the advanced rhythmic concepts found in the work of Dilla and other hip-hop, neo-soul, and jazz musicians. To try some of this stuff out, I decided to make my own lo-fi hop-hop beat.

The main sample is from track 5 of the 1976 Moog record Mother Earth’s Plantasia by Mort Garson, “Concerto for Philodendron & Pothos”. I slowed it down slightly to lower the pitch and warm up the timbre, then did some audio effect processing to give it a fuller, more modern sound. The original song wasn’t recorded to a click so the tempo moves around in some places. In order to fix this, I cut the sample in sections of a couple bars and lined the start of each section up to the grid. I didn’t do any time correction within the chops, so the tempo drifts a bit, which adds to the loose, abstract rhythmic feel.

In keeping with the lo-fi hip-hop style, I created a dense background of noise by combining rain samples, tape noise, and vinyl crackle.

The drum groove is mostly a septuplet swing, with some extra percussion and accents thrown in on different subdivisions. There are elements that start and stop throughout the song to give the beat more shape, but the section at 1:35 has everything playing together. Here is a transcription of the complete drum loop:

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